dads (and how they can get you to do 80 miles)

I’ve known my dad was coming out to Leadville to visit for months, and he warned me that I’d better get good on the passes (on a bicycle). But alas, it was winter still until just a couple weeks ago and thus I’d only been on my bike a dozen times or fewer by the time he arrived to visit.

My father is the type of guy that can ride over 100 miles per day every day for weeks.

total badass

total badass

So we were making plans for what we’d do while he was here, and he asked if I wanted to do Independence Pass. I said yes immediately, because that’s just how I roll, but after the fact I had to think about it very seriously and I discovered I was nervous. He asked what the longest distance was I’d done in a day so far, and it was somewhere in the thirties [it is tragic how I rode 25+ every day in Denver and now I only do that once or twice a week!]. He told me Leadville to the top of Independence Pass and back was about 70 miles.

I did spend some time thinking it over and the reason I was nervous was because I was concerned I couldn’t do it, and kind of legitimately so. The thing about out-and-backs is that at the point you turn around, you’re going to have to do just as much distance back. What a mindfuck. If you can’t, you never get home. Let me tell you though, the premise that if you stop you’ll never get home is EXCELLENT motivation. The other thing is that 24 back to Leadville is miles and miles of brutal and relentless uphill.

So yeah, I was worried. I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But what on earth was I going to tell my [totally badass] dad? Like I would puss out. No, I would do this thing.

My dad told me in the morning that it was more like 76 miles. We set out with tons of snacks and water. From Leadville to CO 82 is pretty much downhill (which explains the evil uphill) so we were cruising pretty good. We made good time to Twin Lakes.

la plata TH

la plata TH

The trail over Independence Pass has been in use possibly since prehistoric times, and most definitely by the Ute Native Americans that occupied the Roaring Fork Valley. It’s pretty much the only way through. Like most of the High Rockies, Roaring Fork and Aspen were rushed by miners in the 1870’s (slightly later in the decade than the mining towns to the East) and in 1880 one of the boomers paid a crew using hand tools to build a real road over the pass. At each bridge a toll was charged-$.25 for horses and $.50 for wagons. Also in 1880, a town developed around the ore mill three miles west of the pass. It was called Independence, and at its peak housed 1000 residents. The last resident of Independence left in 1912. The pass had previously been known as Hunter Pass, and was re-named in honor of its new neighboring town.

To say CO-82 is scenic is a wretched understatement. I’ve spent so much time on Fremont Pass (between Leadville and I-70/Copper Mountain) that I forgot how gorgeous passes can be. The road to Independence is winding, forest-lined, and right in the middle of a beautiful valley. Rushing rivers, canyons, and completely epic mountain views line the road. I wasn’t really that tired when we approached the first switchback, but my crotch HURT and the steepness of the switchbacks was terrifying. [I still don’t understand the steep/steepness deep/depth conundrum, despite how much time I spend thinking about it].

I’d never done a mountain pass on a bike before, and I’ve discovered it’s much like ascending a fourteener…you always think you’ve gone further than you have, you always think there’s less left to go than there is, and most of the time you can’t actually see where the route goes in the future (so you spend a lot of time thinking about it). At first I had a can’t stop-won’t stop mentality and I somehow thought I could bust ass up THE WHOLE PASS without slowing or stopping…but I think each time you turn into a new switchback, it’s like realizing you’re on a false summit, and I’m not going to lie my friends I slowed down and took two breaks during that ascent. It felt great though. Someone spray painted encouraging things along the road for cyclists…YOU CAN DO IT!.

Yeah it was a lot of work but trucking up the final ascent to the pass felt light and triumphant. At this point (much like on fourteeners also) I was thinking “the hardest part is over” but that was not at all the case.

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In most endurance sports, you can plan to race twice the mileage you’ve been training. The 80 miles (yes, 80) we ended up doing for the round trip was definitely more than twice my previous high mileage. I hadn’t written the last post yet, about the physiology of endurance, but I knew well enough to eat as much as I could before I got too hungry and drink more than I could stand [here’s a fun fact-if you drink solely to thirst you’ll be about 70% hydrated. Most studies agree that your body can still operate very well at 70%, and that at the end of the session you can catch back up]. I still had to take a few breaks though. By the time we got to 24 my vag hurt so much I could barely put it on the seat anymore, and now my shoulders felt like they could barely support my torso on the handlebars. I think we had about 15 miles to go at this point. Uphill.

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So here’s what I mean about another person helping you push past your limits. It would not have occurred to me to ride 80 miles on Monday, let alone in our mountains and up a pass, because 80 is so far beyond my comfort zone. But because my dad asked me to, I said yes and attempted it the best I could. And we made it. From Leadville to the top of Independence Pass and all the way back home (for pizza, fries, and Cokes). I don’t know if I even believed I could do it until we were ascending, but I went for it anyway. My dad literally rode circles around me. The whole thing was such an eye-opener; I surpassed what I believed to be my limits running and climbing in the mountains in the past year to such an extent that I stopped believing I have them. But now I can see that it’s not full circle-I still see limitations in myself when faced with different types of barriers. Friends, this is a new frontier.

la plata (also updates-hitting it hard, and sarah starts using brackets all the time)

With another Wednesday almost all the way off, I elected to get up at 3:30a to do La Plata Peak (14,336ft, 9.25mi) before the storms rolled in at 1 (something like 90% chance…and they started as we were pulling out). The TH was hard to find, you park off the main road then walk in like a mile, but it’s not marked well plus it’s unusual to walk in on a road without the TH in site. Naturally, I drove into the forest on a very bad service dirt service road and wasted about an hour, looking for the TH and only finding a bunch of obscure signs and random, unmarked roads. By the time I rolled back out to the main road where the TH parking is, I was super frustrated. So frustrated that I was about ready to head home (whoa nelly, Sarah, calm your shit down). I parked and got out, just in time to meet up with a couple that were walking around in confusion as well. We walked in on the road together and found the TH and I departed from them pretty quickly, ready to burn up the mountain fast and dirty (with all that extra vigor for getting so annoyed about nothing). [fun fact: the couple had only eaten chocolate frosted donuts for breakfast-I abstained from telling them how well *that* works out]

Mama nature, you stop it with your damn epic views.  I'm so tired of hiking with gorgeous backdrops all the time! #nofilter

Mama nature, you stop it with your damn epic views. I’m so tired of hiking with gorgeous backdrops all the time! #nofilter

Once you get out of the forest, the views get amazing and you hit the brutal switchbacks that are the worst part of the route. I passed two decent-sized groups that were split up over the switchbacks. Several of the poor dears were carrying gallon jugs in one hand and a couple of the girls were wearing purses [wondering what happens to them? I’ll see them later]. They loved/hated Luna, exasperatedly commenting about how epic she is and WHY DOESN’T THE ELEVATION EFFECT HER?! Business as usual.

The switchbacks were over before we knew it, and we continued through the meadow eating PB&J without stopping. The ascent up the ridge was grueling and somewhat terrible because the whole time it looks like you have so much more to go. The first couple I saw descending told me that it’s not as far as it looks. I disregarded this information, thinking “oh. really. it looks fucking far.” Then it turned out, maybe 5 minutes later we hit the saddle and you could see there was only one last little bit of talus hopping to the summit. [Here’s an aside for you: when I suddenly got interested in mountaineering, I was mildly annoyed at the constant use of talus and scree in trip reports and route directions. I gleaned a basic understanding, that both were referring to broken rock bits. I assumed there were solid definitions of each, but it turns out NOT. They both refer to broken rock bits, or a formation made of broken rock bits. Neither is specific to size. Scree comes from skrioa, Norse for landslide. Talus comes from the same word in French, meaning slope or embankment. Now, you can refer to talus and scree with pride and look very cool. You’re welcome.]

Luna sizes up some rocks.  See?  How hard was that?  Just call it like it is.

Luna sizes up some rocks. See? How hard was that? Just call it like it is.

While scree-hopping (see what I did there?), we came across a whole group of teenage girls that I was initially annoyed by (SO. LOUD.) but that quickly spent 15 minutes petting and fawning over Lu. So I cut them some slack. Evidently, Colorado summer camps take field trips to hike fourteeners. I was pretty impressed with these girls, as there were plenty of grownups still heading up the switchbacks and crying about it.

Me giving you a thumbs up on the summit.  Because I'm cool like that.

Me giving you a thumbs up on the summit. Because I’m cool like that.

We took some time to hang out on the summit, but with my later-than planned start and what I assumed were impending storms, we headed back down pretty quickly. [MORE BRACKETS. There was a family of 3 on the summit eating Subway sandwiches…it was like 10am, so they must have purchased them the night before? This bothered me and I spent more time than I should’ve thinking about it]

The gorgeous Ellingwood Ridge, named for the first person who climbed it in the 20'sish.

The gorgeous Ellingwood Ridge, named for the first person who climbed it in the 20’sish.

On the way down the main ascent, we stopped to tell our fellow travelers that it’s not as far as it looks and they gave me skeptical looks. I ran into both groups of newbies, one about to tackle the ridge with fear in their eyes, and the others lunching in the meadow with resignation. Both stopped me to talk, and I tried to give them an accurate assessment of what was coming next, but it turned out they were uninterested in my guesstimates of time to the summit, or in my warnings of the coming storms. They wanted to talk about Lu, quel surprise.

because Lu is the shit, obv

because Lu is the shit, obv

The hike down was uneventful, which was good, because the storms didn’t hit until I was all the way to the car and on 24, headed back to Denver. And hit they did, hopefully everyone that was up there made it up/down safely. When everything was said and done, I was home by 3p! Definitely a successful trip.

Getting ready for collegiates, I put in a whole lot of time running:
Friday 4mi Matty Winters
Sunday 7mi city
Monday 8mi Mesa Trail (this is the infamous bear run)
Tuesday 7mi Dinosaur Ridge
Wednesday 4mi Matty Winters

Things got filthy dirt on dinosaur ridge

Things got filthy dirt on dinosaur ridge

I’ve shaped somewhat of a plan for the Collegiates: one day is Oxford/Belford/Missouri and the other will be Huron/Harvard/Columbia. I’m getting pumped, TWO WHOLE DAYS in the woods?! Shit’s about to get all kinds of rad.

Stay tuned for delicious raw energy ball recipe and updates on the Collegiates trip coming up fast!

xo

Elbert & Massive (the two tallest peaks in CO in 24 hours)

I hadn’t gotten to a fourteener since the epic Sawtooth day of awesomeness, so I got this guy on the books. Mt. Massive (14,428) and Mt. Elbert (14,433) (you guys know how much I love parentheses-elevation is speculated, there are a lot of numbers floating around but they’re all within a few feet).

Lu came with me to my Monday morning class, then we headed to Mark’s house to set out for Leadville, CO (but first-coffee and a quick grocery store trip). With iced coffee and frosted donuts, we were en route to the mountains.

On the way into the national forest to the TH, we came across my friend Chris from the Evans hike who was meeting us for the hike up. I had chosen the Southwest slopes route because we were going to be getting a late start-we hit the TH at 11am. So we were looking at 9ish miles and 3,950′ gain. The first couple miles were in the woods and meadow and very lovely, but the gain started pretty quickly and we were headed up.

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Mark was feeling hella strong (probably all of that Orange Theory working out, we speculated) and I was feeling hella-not-energized (here’s a moment that I’m going to take to tell you that I did not properly feed myself or hydrate on Monday…I did not take this trip seriously enough and had cookie dough and Coke for dinner the night before…then coffee and donuts for breakfast WHOOPS. Lesson=learned) and my thighs were BURNING and I wasn’t getting to my second wind very quickly. So Chris and I took it relatively easy while Mark trucked on.

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This was basically the story of the whole ascent, but it was beautiful and pleasant. When we reached the top, Mark was sitting on the rocks chilling and we commented about where the summit actually was (Massive has several false peaks) and we were informed that we were on it!

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The ascent went pretty quickly, we were back down around 6:30. Chris was dying to put his feet in the river, and Mark and I were dying to go into Leadville for some Coke. Sad, right? Nothing like a cold soda after working your thighs to death! There is KILLER camping in the forest between our TH and the Elbert TH that was further east on the way in. We picked a spectacular spot in great vicinity to the roaring river (and with the world’s most epic firepit, that I, of course, didn’t take a picture of because my phone was dead by now). We had Mark’s tent so it was put up in a jiffy, and I used my badass fire starting skillz to get a roaring fire going to cook our veggie dogs and bourbon baked beans over. Chips and coke too!?! Plus-Lu got the extra “dogs” and beans so we hit the tent with full happy bellies.

Not quite a 5am wake up, but 6am so not too shabby. We broke camp and headed to the Elbert TH to rock out one more mountain before we had to head back to Denver. The Elbert TH was already very crowded, the parking lot nearly full and a line for the highly overused bathrooms (should’ve pooped at the campsite, damn). There’s a bit of trail in the woods that’s a nice windy hike, then suddenly BAM! steep incline that never lets up. We passed several people in this section, constantly thinking- any second now, this steepness will let up. It never, ever did. It was a wild trail, the standard route, just up and up with no breaks. But, to gain 4700′ in 5 miles is a lot!

Still snow.

Still snow.

We were fully prepared with food and water, though, and I felt amazing on this hike. Just hauling ass and taking names. We continually encountered more and more people-good lord this trail was busy on a Tuesday! Then we got to the steepest of the steep parts! Oof! I had a mantra in my head on this one-can’t stop, won’t stop. I was rocking as hard as I could. We had seen 3 people trail running on this route (I know, right?? New goals) and somehow right in the middle of the steepest stretch with a little less than a mile left to go I suddenly thought I could run to the finish. That didn’t happen. But, I didn’t take any breaks and was pretty proud.

We spent approximately long enough to take this picture on the summit-it was crowded.

We spent approximately long enough to take this picture on the summit-it was crowded.

We really burned it on the way down. And we realized something-we didn’t start Massive until 11am on Monday-and headed down from the Elbert summit it was only a little after 10am! Two peaks in 24 hours! It felt good.

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The Elbert trip was the fastest fourteener I’ve done to date. I thought about it a lot on this trip and decided to go for my new goal: 28 fourteeners before I turn 28, which means I’ve got 18 to go before October 3rd! It’s a tall order, but I think it’s doable. We fueled down at the Boathouse in Frisco-fries, mountain dew, and pizza.

The mountains are waiting, so get on your way.